Comment: Scroll to the bottom of the article for updates.
Putin's strategy in Syria has worked like a charm. First, there were around 2 weeks of murky, rumor-filled reports of a build-up of Russian military activity in Tartus and Latakia, Syria. Some were false, some had a seed of truth, but it got everyone talking -- this at the same time that Western media was hyping the refugee crisis and the danger of ISIS 'infiltrating Europe'. Second, there was talk of a new coalition to fight ISIS. This irked the West: Russian assistance in Latakia makes any no-fly zone in Syria a no-go. And a real coalition risks actually defeating ISIS, which the West doesn't really want. (They were counting on ISIS as the means or pretext of taking out Assad.) Now, quick on the heels of Putin's talk at the UN and his meeting with Obama, Russia has begun airstrikes in Syria using the West's own pretext - the threat of radicalized nationals 'returning home' . (Of course, Russia has other reasons for going to Syria, too.)
Already, after just one day of airstrikes, the U.S. has pretty much folded, stating that they are stopping any additional training of radical Syrian jihadis, and 'adjusting' their policy regarding Assad, at least temporarily. News is coming fast, so here are a few of the highlights from the past two days. (Check out Joe Quinn's SOTT Focus for some real gems from yesterday's news.)
Russian Defense Ministry releases video of first day's airstrikes (Russian TASS - Sept. 30)
The footage shows what Russia identifies as ISIS command posts, destroying ammunition depots, weapons, fuel, and military equipment storage in the mountainous areas. As noted by Defense Ministry-General Major Igor Konashenkov, "all strikes were done after aerial reconnaissance and better clarify the data obtained from the headquarters of the Syrian army. According to him, Russian aircraft and weapons have not been used in the vicinity of civilian infrastructure."
Putin meets with government members, declares position on Syria (Kremlin.ru - Sept. 30)
This is what he had to say about the offensive. In a nutshell: 1) support the Syrian army, 2) launch airstrikes (no ground troops), 3) with a limited time-frame, 4) under international law.
We will start with an issue that will likely be the subject of much discussion today, namely, my request to the Federation Council on using Russia's Armed Forces beyond our country's borders. The Federation Council has examined this request and approved it.Russia has had the courtesy to offer the U.S. a way to save face. If the U.S. professes to want to defeat ISIS, it is free to cooperate with Russia. It's that simple. To refuse would appear childish, petty, or downright hypocritical. Not only that, Russia gave the U.S. an hour or so to clear out of Syria (presumably to let their assets on the ground know they'd better high-tail it out of there before the bombs started falling). Thus, John Kerry's joint statement with Sergei Lavrov, with its public language of cooperation:
Syria is the issue here. The only real way to fight international terrorism (and international terrorist groups are creating chaos in Syria and the territory of neighbouring countries right now) is to take the initiative and fight and destroy the terrorists in the territory they have already captured rather than waiting for them to arrive on our soil.
We all know that thousands of people from European countries, Russia, and the post-Soviet region have joined the ranks of the so-called Islamic State, a terrorist organisation that - I want to stress again - has nothing to do with genuine Islam. There is no need to be an expert to realise that if they succeed in Syria, they will inevitably return to their own countries, and this includes Russia.
We all know too that the Islamic State long since declared our country its enemy. Today, a number of countries, including the United States, Australia and France, are using their air forces to carry out air strikes against the Islamic State's positions in Syria.
We have always consistently supported the fight against international terrorism. At the same time, we believe that it must proceed strictly in accordance with international law, in other words, on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions or at the request of the country in need of military assistance. Our partners' operations in Syria have neither of these things as their basis, but we nonetheless think it possible and necessary to unite the efforts of all concerned countries in the fight against international terrorism and base this common effort on the UN Charter.
At this stage, I propose that all countries concerned, in particular the countries in the region, start taking part in the work of the international information and eventually coordination centre in Bagdad.
We have informed all of our partners about Russia's plans and actions in Syria. Let me repeat: Russia's involvement in the anti-terrorist operations in Syria is in accordance with international law and based on the official request from the President of the Syrian Arab Republic.
I want to stress the point though that the conflict in Syria has deep roots and is the result of many factors. This includes interstate and domestic political factors, and religious and interethnic differences, which have been exacerbated by unceremonious foreign intervention in the region's affairs.
Given these circumstances, we naturally have no intention of getting deeply entangled in this conflict. We will act strictly in accordance with our set mission. First, we will support the Syrian army only in its lawful fight against terrorist groups. Second, our support will be limited to airstrikes and will not involve ground operations. Third, our support will have a limited timeframe and will continue only while the Syrian army conducts its anti-terrorist offensive.
Our view is that a final and long-term solution to the situation in Syria is possible only on the basis of political reform and dialogue between all healthy forces in the country. I know that President al-Assad knows this and is ready for this process. We are counting on his active and flexible position and his readiness to make compromises for the sake of his country and people.
As Sergey said to you, we agreed on the imperative of a ... as soon as possible, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, but as soon as possible - having a military-to-military deconflec .. deconfliction discussion, meeting, conference, whichever, whatever could be done as soon as possible, because we agree on the urgency of that deconfliction. [HK: That's probably diplomacy-speak for 'terms of conditional surrender', as Fort Russ's Joaquin Flores put it.]
We did address a number of ways to deal with the conflict itself.
I need to take those back to Washington, to the president and his team, and Sergei needs to do the same in Moscow.
Because we both agreed that we want to avoid seeing this being intensified and getting beyond our control. [HK: I.e., the U.S. doesn't want to be exposed as the lying, two-faced, terror-supporting psychopath it really is, after the dust settles.] ...
We think we have very specific steps that maybe will help lead in the right direction.
That needs to be explored - we both agreed we have a lot of work to do - understanding how serious this is, in terms of refugees, and needing to keep Syria whole, unified, secular and so on.
Kerry and Lavrov both know what's really going on here: the U.S. has numerous assets among the terrorist groups, it doesn't really want them defeated, but it must make a show of it in order to keep up the public pretense of wanting to fight terrorism. Perhaps Russia is even giving the U.S. and its allies a chance to remove key assets from within their mercenary groups operating in Syria. There's not much else they can do, having been cornered by Russia's quick action. And, what? No mention of Assad resigning? Whodathunkit! Kerry basically admitted defeat, and Lavrov didn't even gloat.
After being caught with their pants down, the U.S.'s options are rather limited at this point in time in response to Russia. But they're really trying their best, making two basic claims via the media: 1) Russia isn't really targeting ISIS, 2) Russia is killing civilians. For example, yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that at least one airstrike targeted U.S.-trained and -supported rebels:
Russian Airstrike in Syria Targeted CIA-Backed Rebels, U.S. Officials Say (Sept. 30) - Russia launched airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, catching U.S. and Western officials off guard and drawing new condemnation as evidence suggested Moscow wasn't targeting extremist group Islamic State, but rather other opponents of Bashar al-Assad's regime.Funny phrasing, isn't it? "Other opponents." As if ISIS were the only terrorist group operating in Syria... As Alexei Pushov, chairman of the Russian parliament's international affairs committee, said today:
'The moderate opposition' is largely a myth invented by the United States. Its fighters are not fighting against Isil, join Al-Qaeda, and fired at the Russian embassy. Is that 'moderation'?How many times must 'moderate rebels' join, defect, or cooperate with ISIS for the West to admit this point?
The Kremlin has apparently responded to such accusations, according to the Guardian:
Russia has bombed targets in north-west Syria for a second day, as the Kremlin said it was going after a list of well-known militant organisations and not just Islamic State.As for yesterday's strikes, this is how the Telegraph put it:
Tarek Balsheh, a spokesman for the Syrian civil defence, said an airstrike hit Jisr al-Shughour. "Russian aircraft have been in the sky since this morning and bombed Jisr al-Shughour with an airstrike approximately two hours ago," Balsheh said. "We have no reports of casualties.
"They targeted the northern neighbourhood of the town, which only houses civilians, but there are very few people there because of repeated airstrikes."
Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese pro-Assad channel, separately reported that Russian aircraft had launched 30 fresh airstrikes against Jaysh al-Fateh, a powerful rebel coalition that includes Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida affiliated al-Nusra Front.
"Russian air force planes have commenced air operations with surgical strikes against identified Isil ground targets," said General Igor Konshenkov, a Russian defence ministry spokesman, adding that "arms, ammunition and fuel depots" had all been destroyed.As if the two objectives were somehow contradictory. But the U.S. can't really go wrong with this line of attack. After all, even if Russia were to attack and kill card-carrying ISIS members, the U.S. could still respond by saying that Russia bombed "U.S.-trained fighters"! That's probably the point behind Russian intervention in the first place: to fight the U.S.'s proxy mercenary force (which includes fighters in practically all of the 'rebel' groups: ISIS, Nusra, FSA, etc.) while using the West's own narrative: "You say you want to fight ISIS? Well, let us give you a hand!"
By early afternoon, however, a multitude of reports from the ground suggested otherwise. Instead of hitting Isil, Russian jets were said to have dropped bombs on two locations in Homs province, three in Hama and two in Latakia.
All of the targets were non-Isil rebel groups, including those supported by the Western powers. The SU-24s were in action not in Isil's stronghold in eastern Syria or against Raqqa - the movement's de facto capital - but in areas where Assad's forces have been under severe pressure from the insurgents.
The suspicion immediately arose that saving Assad - not destroying Isil - was Russia's main objective.
The British responded just as ridiculously. From the Telegraph:
Speaking on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, warned of the possible consequences.How much clearer can they be, Hammond?! This is precisely what Putin has said: that his government and military are supporting Assad. Contrary to the dream world you seem to live in, where Assad is a dictator 'killing his own people', while simultaneously being attacked by ISIS, Assad has been fighting foreign-sponsored terrorists for over 4 years now - terrorists trained, funded, and armed by the West and their allies in the region (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc.). If you were serious about fighting terrorism - and not using terrorists as a proxy force to topple Assad - you'd support Assad too.
"We are clear that if Russia wants to join with the coalition in air strikes against Isil then we would welcome that. If what Russia is doing is carrying out air strikes in defence of the regime then that is a very different issue," said Mr Hammond. ...
"If they have selected a target that is clearly an Isil target they will be sending us a signal that they want this intervention to be seen as a counter-Isil intervention.
"If they are in an area the regime is defending, that will send a much more mixed message.
"And if it's in an area where there is no Isil engagement, it will send a very clear message that it is designed to support Assad."
Britain also warned that the strikes risk driving the "entire opposition" into the arms of ISIS. Right. Well, that's actually pretty close to the truth, because there is very little except name in dividing the core mentality of the various terror groups operating in Syria. They already cooperate with each other, after all. FSA Col. Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi even referred to ISIS as FSA's 'brothers'. What's the big difference if they change the symbol on their flags? Birds of a feather...
Vox put out a terrible piece today telling its readers, "Don't believe" that Russia's targeting ISIS! No, it's targeting groups hostile to ISIS! They quote Genevieve Casagrande, a researcher for the Institute for the Study of War (a neocon think tank), as saying that "Talbiseh [site of one of the airstrikes] is home to Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, hardline Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, and a number of other local rebel groups." Vox adds their two bits: "These organizations are generally hostile to ISIS." Yep, Vox is criticizing Russia for targeting Al-Qaeda. Because Al-Qaeda is hostile to ISIS. What planet do these people live on?! The Daily Beast joined in on the propaganda fest.
John McCain was typically hilarious and incoherent:
Meanwhile in the US, John McCain, head of the senate armed services committee, told CNN that CIA-trained Free Syrian Army recruits were hit by strikes.Suck it up, you little jihadi-loving freak!
"I can absolutely confirm to you that they were strikes against our Free Syrian Army recruits that have been armed and trained by the CIA because we have communications with people there."
Across the pond, France called it "curious" that Russia seemingly had not targeted known ISIS sites:
"Russian forces struck Syria and curiously didn't hit Islamic State," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers in Paris.We wonder, who exactly was targeted for these important, symbolic first strikes? "Other rebel groups"? Or something with a little more intrigue, perhaps? If it were CIA/MI6/Mossad hideouts, there's no way the U.S., UK or Israel would admit it... Might that explain Kerry's capitulation?
A French diplomatic source said the strikes, which seemed to have been carried out near Homs, an area crucial to Assad's control of western Syria.
"It is not Daesh (Islamic State) that they are targeting, but probably opposition groups, which confirms that they are more in support of Bashar's regime than in fighting Daesh," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Then there was this from U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter:
The Russian approach here is doomed to fail. I hope that they come over to a point of view where they try to pursue their objectives in a different way that makes more sense.We'll just have to wait and see how prophetic Carter really is.
As for claims of dead civilians, there's this:
Moscow: Western media lied about the victims of Russian air strikes in Syria (Riafan.ru - Sept. 30)
The George Soros-linked "White Helmets" NGO in Syria has already been caught faking images of civilians killed or maimed in the Russian airstrikes. Reuters, citing unnamed sources, and others, citing the Times of Israel, are reporting the deaths of 6-12 children in Homs. The head of the opposition group National Coalation, Khaled Khoja, said one strike killed 36 civilians, but he has yet to provide any evidence. Russian Foreign Ministry rep. Maria Zakharova has called these 'fabrications': "Biased and false reports have flooded Western and regional media claiming the Russian military operation is causing civilian deaths or even is aimed against pro-democratic forces and the peaceful population. That is an information attack, the information warfare that we all have heard so much about. Apparently someone came well-prepared for it." Let's take a guess as to their 'sources': Free Syrian Army? Nusra? ISIS themselves? In other words, American allies and proxies. And no proof to back up their claims, as of yet.
saying: "As for any information in the media on civilians suffering [from Russian airstrikes], we were ready for such information attacks. I draw your attention to the fact that the first reports on civilian casualties emerged before our planes even left the ground."
As for the latest updates:
Russian Air Force in Syria deploying over 50 planes & choppers - Defense Ministry (RT, Oct. 1) - Russian Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov told media: "The air group was deployed on very short notice. It was possible because we had most of the materiel and ammunition ready at our depot in Tartus. We only had to move our aircraft and deliver some extra equipment."
ISIS HQ, command point, ammo depot destroyed in Russian military Syria night op (RT, Oct. 1) - Last night's airstrikes targeted four ISIS facilities near Idlib and al-Latamna. Drone footage shows an ammunition depot exploding, and a 3-story building in ruins after being hit by FAB-500 bombs from an SU-25. "A terrorist HQ and an ammunition depot were destroyed near Idlib, as were a fortified three-level command center near Hama," Konashenkov said. "A direct bomb hit also completely destroyed a workshop north of Homs that produced explosives and ammunition," he added, saying that at this workshop terrorists were stuffing vehicles with explosives.
Russia taking measures against potential terror attacks after Syria bombing raids - Peskov (RT, Oct. 1)
Russian special services are working tirelessly to prevent potential terrorist attacks by extremists in retaliation to Moscow's operation in Syria, Dmitry Peskov, presidential press secretary, has said.And who trains, arms, and directs those terrorists in the first place? You guessed it.
Peskov noted the situation was similar to other places in the world - in all nations special services are constantly taking steps to counter terrorism in all of its manifestations. In Russia, this task is being fulfilled by the Federal Security Service and the National Anti-Terror Committee, he said.
UPDATE (OCT. 2, 12:00 GMT)
'Russia kills US-backed Syrian rebels in second day of air strikes as Iran prepares for ground offensive' (Telegraph, Oct. 1):
18:28 GMT: Hezbollah and Iran are sending hundreds of forces into Syria in preparation for a major ground offensive, with air support from Russia. Airstrikes alone can't do much: they need ground ops to be really effective.
17:14 GMT: Here's another quote from John "bunker-brain" McCain: "I can absolutely confirm to you that they were strikes against the Free Syrian Army or groups that have been armed and trained by the CIA because we have communication with people there...this is an Orwellian experience." Thanks, John, for coming out and admitting the obvious. What's even more Orwellian is you admitting the CIA is training mercenaries to take out the leader of a sovereign nation, and thinking there's nothing wrong with it. We're sure there are plenty of people around the world who are very happy that Russia is taking action against the biggest terrorist organization on the planet: the CIA.
10:54 GMT: Thursday's targets of Russian fighter jets included Jisr al-Shughour and Jabal al-Zawiya, areas under the control of Jaish al-Fatah, the Army of Conquest; and Isil targets in Raqqa and Deir Ezzour provinces, including a Syrian Air Force base which fell to Isil earlier this year after a long siege
ISIS responds to Russia: "Is it not time for the knight to mount his steed? Is it not time to cut off the heads? What are we waiting for? What remains?" said one man, Mohammad al-Maghaweer, who claimed to be a front-line fighter with Jaish al-Fatah.
Saudi Arabia demands Russia end Syria raids, criticizes Iran (Reuters, Oct. 1)
09:48 GMT: Realizing their Wahhabi army is in danger, Saudi Arabia is throwing a fit, demanding Moscow stop the bombs. Of course, their rationale is borrowed from the U.S.: Saudi ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi expressed "profound concern regarding the military operations which Russian forces have carried out in Homs and Hama today, places where ISIS forces are not present. These attacks led to a number of innocent victims."
In addition to Syria, Ukraine has jumped on board, condemning the Russian airstrikes. Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the State Duma Alexei Pushkov wrote on Twitter: "Only Saudi Arabia and Ukraine have condemned our actions in Syria. A strange "coalition". They will not find support among the international public opinion. It is impossible to defend ISIS." Ukraine's little fascist Yatsenyuk had this to say:
"I think that after the UN General Assembly, after the 70th session, such a decision by Russia is another step towards the destabilization of the global situation, towards tension in the world, towards the continuation of the military conflict, and Russia bears personal responsibility for that," - said Yatsenyuk, reports the Ukrainian edition of Correspondent.Dream on, Yats!
"The decision to send troops and the granting of authorization to the Russian President to send troops to any country in the world is a step toward the destruction of the global security system. This is unacceptable. And the reaction of the international community should be urgent in this matter", - emphasized the head of Ukrainian government.
EU Ready for Key Role in Syrian Crisis Settlement Under UN (Sputnik, Oct. 1)
15:31 GMT: The European Union is ready to play a key role in the political settlement of the Syrian crisis under the auspices of the United Nations, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini's spokeswoman said Thursday.Russia's airstrikes do not target civilians or moderate opposition in Syria - Syrian FM (RT, Oct. 1)
"The EU called again for renewed international effort led by the UN to bring an end to the war, and it confirmed that it is ready to put all its political weight to try and facilitate a solution to this conflict," Catherine Ray told reporters.
18:11 GMT: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told RT Arabic channel that US claims that Russian airstrikes in Syria targeted moderate opposition and civilians are absolutely false:
Moscow's anti-terror operation in Syria "is coordinated [with Damascus] and executed at the request of the Syrian leadership to the Russian authorities. There's non-stop coordination on this military operation," Muallem stressed.West Demonizes Russian Airstrikes in Syria to Justify Its Own Failure (Sputnik, Oct. 1.)
The minister dismissed reports which claim that the Russian airstrikes targeted civilians and so-called moderate opposition areas in Syria.
"They [the US] will lie to the end. This is absolutely false. There are certain targets established by our intelligence and the [Russian] airstrikes were carried out on the basis of this data," he told RT Arabic.
18:58 GMT: Deputy Director of the Damascus Center for International and Strategic Studies Dr. Taleb Ibrahim speaks some common sense:
"All these Western media reports about Russians killing civilians are pure lies. During airstrikes, Russia hasn't killed a single civilian," Ibrahim said.Exactly. No mention of the huge civilian death toll in the U.S./Saudi turkey-shoot in Yemen. As Neil Clark put in on RT:
The scholar said he visited areas that were attacked during Russian airstrikes several months ago and can assure everyone that civilians had been long gone from these areas. Only militants are left there now.
Western media tries to misinform people. "They never talk about those civilians killed every day in Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan. They never talk about their errors on training "moderate" opposition fighters," Ibrahim said.
The only thing the West can do right now is to deliberately malign the actions of Russia to somehow try to justify their own failures in Syria.
What this shows - and there are plenty of other examples - is that western news channels are happy to cite unnamed 'activists', without even the most cursory checks of whether the claims they make are correct if those claims show Russia, or indeed, any other "official enemy" in a bad light. Of course, it's a very different story if claims are made against the US or its allies. Remember that high profile coverage of claims made by unnamed 'activists' about civilian casualties caused by western air-strikes? No, me neither.Germany extradites 'Syrian terror camp trainee' to Russia (RT, Oct. 1)
US media, overnight, has developed an intense concern about targeting precision, accuracy of bombing claims, identity of airstrike victims— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 1, 2015
Channels which have shown no, or little interest in civilian casualties in Yemen, where it's been Saudi Arabia and its allies doing the bombing, are now, all of a sudden, keen to show pictures of people being taken to hospital allegedly after Russian air strikes.
21:09 GMT: 27-year-old Rashid Evloyev, from North Ossetia, has been extradited from Hamburg to Moscow. In late 2013 he had undergone training in Syria, and a Russian Interior Ministry spokeswoman has said he "was being prepared for the subsequent participation in subversive and terrorist activities on the territory of the Russia."
Terrorist training camp & command HQ annihilated in Russian MoD-released combat footage (VIDEO) (RT, Oct. 2)
00:22 GMT: The Russian MOD released new footage of their second day of airstrikes, which included eight flights from the Hmeimim base in Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast, targeting five Islamic State targets, destroying an ISIS command post and a training camp.
RT EXCLUSIVE: First look at Russian airbase in Latakia, centerpiece of anti-ISIS operations (VIDEO) (RT, Oct. 2)
06:06 GMT: RT's Murad Gazdiev has exclusively visited Russian airbase in the Syrian city of Latakia from where Sukhoi jets have been taking off to target Islamic State positions.
Russian Air Force destroys ISIS command center, training camp (VIDEO) (RT, Oct. 2)
09:14 GMT: Russian forces launched a total of 12 airstrikes during 18 sorties on Thursday, according to ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, the ministry spokesman. He added, "The targeting systems of those planes allows for hitting ground targets with absolute precision, which was proven yesterday during combat missions targeting ISIS infrastructure. "We can use this type of aircraft to deliver strikes anywhere in Syria." RT reports: "Overnight, the Russian Air Force conducted 10 sorties and hit seven targets in Syria, Konashenkov said. Over the 24 hours the planes bombed a field camp in Aleppo province, a logistics center in Idlib province and a command point at a fortified facility in Hama province."
Konahsenkov also said:
"We foiled an attempt to rebuild by the militants of the underground command post in the province of Hama, which was destroyed during the airstrikes of our aircraft on September 30th." According to him, aerial reconnaissance and the headquarters of the Syrian armed forces timely discovered the restoration work.
"To interdict these works at command post in the El Latamna an additional air strike was carried out, which resulted in two major fires at the control structures," - said Konashenkov, adding that the object was almost destroyed.
"After a direct hit by bombs on the ammunition depot located at this facility, its detonation took place. This has led to the destruction of buildings and vehicles."